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Why Play the Flute?

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Interesting fact: The flute is the third oldest instrument in the world, although it didn’t always look quite like the one we know today as the keys were added at the turn of the century. Still, a form of the flute has been around since before recorded language.

Why flute? This is a funny question—As a flute player myself, I sometimes think back to when I decided to play flute for the rest of my life: I was in 10th grade and driving home from a flute lesson with my mom when I had this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t just stop playing flute. Obviously I had already been thinking about what I was going to do in college, but at that moment, the notion that I could stop playing music made me so sad that I knew I had to study flute for the rest of my life.

In orchestral music, we get to play all sorts of characters, from birds (composers love to portray birds with flute) to hope, wind, light, or mythical creatures, and that is barely scratching the surface! I had a wonderful teacher in college who pointed to my flute and said “this isn’t a flute.” I looked at him and thought, “Oh no, he thinks my flute is the silver equivalent to a plastic whistle. Or maybe, he’s just gone crazy” He pointed and said again “This isn’t a flute—it is the mist on a mountain top, it is the wind on a summer evening, it is rage, it is pure joy—this is whatever you make it.” Now on some level I knew that—people had been telling me from a reasonably young age that I was good at the musical stuff not written on the page, but never in my life had someone so clearly pointed out the possibilities of playing this instrument. What I love about flute and playing music using wind (or breath) as the mode of sound production is how expressive one can be while literally taking deep—and often calming breaths. I love the many colors one can find in the flute sound with careful study. Most of all I love playing all of the different characters. I love applying narrative to music, and I have the most fun when I’m playing a character with my flute.

As I think back even further to the events that led me to start the flute it all was so arbitrary: I went to Colonial Williamsburg with my family for a few days in the summer before my 5th grade year—I don’t know why I was intrigued so much by this fife I found in a shop, but I was and part of me wonders if I would be here today writing this article without that first seemingly nebulous push. This is just my story and when it comes down to brass tacks, every musician has his or her story. What we all have in common is the universal choice that we make. Every musician has made a choice to put in the careful hours and become what he or she is today. There is some turning point that presents an instrument to a person and then a choice that doesn’t seem at all like a choice but just something that you do. This might be yours for flute.

I don’t think I can ever say to someone “you should play flute because of ____.” There is never enough time and never language specific enough. Most students know flute is for them after listening to it. If they hear something that they like, I do my best to help them put what they like into words, and then we set off together after that sound. Playing flute is not the be all and end all for everyone, but for those who want to enrich their lives with a musical instrument—it is a great choice.

New Lessons Space at By My Side

More great news for music lovers in Fishtown!

We are now offering private lessons at By My Side Parenting (the former 3 Mama Llamas space).  Kids and adults from beginner to advanced can take lessons for piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, clarinet, sax, flute, voice, cello, violin, tuba, trumpet, trombone, banjo, and more.

Lessons For Everyone

original-bmspost2Starting at age 4, lessons can be geared toward a variety of interests and learning styles within a wide range of genres (classical, rock, jazz, and more). ½ price trial lessons enable families to test out the waters first. And because we appreciate everything that goes on at By My Side, we’re giving a 10% discount for families that attend playschool, playgroup, or the after-school programs at the space! Rentals are available to get students started on something new.

We work with each family’s schedule and needs to find a teacher that fits your availability and interests. Visit our website or call (215) 645-0405 to set up lessons. 

By My Side Parenting is located at 1542 E Montgomery Ave, Philadelphia.

PhillyMusicLessons.com | office@phillymusiclessons.com

Strumming and Singing

Two Things at Once: Sing While Playing Guitar

original-singingguitarOne of the most frustrating things when learning the guitar can be learning to sing while playing guitar. (Which can be even more difficult for beginner students). Hopefully, this article can offer some words of inspiration. Singing while playing may seem like a skill that you wouldn’t have to work on independently, but it can actually do a lot to improve every aspect of your playing. (And for some, by singing, I mean humming.)

Being able to strum (or play) one rhythm on the guitar and sing another will help you understand how certain rhythms can work together to create certain movements. Singing while playing can also help you to understand note choice, especially during improvisation or writing. It is also a test to see how well you actually know the instrument while only paying attention to it fifty percent of the time!

Here are a few tips I find to be super helpful:

  1. Start with simple rhythms
    Start with the basics! Try singing the same rhythm as the guitar. For instance, write a sentence with one syllable words like, “No, I don’t know you.” Strum quarter notes and either hum or sing the sentence at the same time. Each word should fall with each strum. Once comfortable, try changing up the rhythm with the same sentence. Maybe try singing triplets while strumming quarter notes and vice versa. Eventually, try a chord progression, starting simple while simultaneously singing along. Try changing up the melodic movement of both the guitar and the voice. You’ve officially begun your first step to composition!
  1. Start slowly
    Just like learning anything new, starting slow helps a ton. Start incorporating chord changes with different melodies – playing them slowly and increasing your speed as you get more comfortable. Sometimes playing along to a metronome can help you keep a good center of rhythm. It’s better to sing and play rhythms correctly than to be making mistakes while trying to play at full speed.
  1. Choose a song
    Once you’ve done the basics, steps one and two, try choosing a song (the fun part). Listen to the song and identify the rhythm of the strum and melody. First learn the strum on the guitar and repeatedly play it until you feel comfortable. Learn the chord progression and learn how to sing the melody while concentrating on the rhythm of it. Don’t be afraid to change the key if it feels uncomfortable. Then, try playing the two together. It helps to play along with the song. (Unless you’ve changed the key of course.)
  1. Focus
    If you find yourself speeding up and slowing down, missing chords, and stumbling to the next note, it is most likely due to a lack of focus. Focus is the key here. Close your eyes and envision yourself playing and singing simultaneously. I find envisioning doing it helps immensely. Though keeping focus may be difficult, the idea is that your focus becomes secondary to strumming and come without thought, then for singing to follow. Eventually, it feels like meditating.

At first, singing while playing guitar may feel unnatural. This can make it very frustrating, but it is totally achievable for anyone! Even after years of playing, I can still struggle with it, and I find myself going back to the basics frequently. Listening to the song, isolating the strum from the melody over and over again. Of course, sometimes the most helpful thing is to have someone with you to coach you through doing two different things at once! Our guitar teachers come from all corners of the music world, so take a look to see if any of them seem like they might be a good fit for your favorite style of music!

Eventually, singing and playing will feel natural, and you will use it more than you ever imagined. Whether playing a chordal motive and humming the melody, learning a solo while humming along (maybe just the root notes, or anticipating where the solo is going next), or performing, the best advice is to have fun with it! As long you keep moving, you’ll keep getting better!

Pay What You Can Music Classes for Baby and Momma

babymusicWe’re switching to a drop-in only system for our baby and tots music classes. This means you no longer have to sign up for our weekly music gatherings. Simply show up, and pay what you can (suggested donation of $10/class)! We’ll be capping the classes at 10-12ish kids (depending how much of a wild rumpus can be contained on the big blue rug).

We do encourage weekly participation, as group flow becomes quite nice over time. Additionally, we love when babies grow up with us! And it often takes kiddos at least a few goes at the whole “class” thing before they warm to it. So please, try class when in doubt (whether you’re unsure of readiness due to age, or simply because you’re hesitant to take your unruly toddler to a class setting). We bend the classes to the group and adjust songs and activities based on the ages, day, or “mood” of the room. Yes, your curious little one may break the rules and get out a xylophone during shaker time, and we welcome these curious little minds and busy bodies.

Please, be sure to stay tuned into our calendar, facebook, twitter, and instagram for updates and last minute schedule changes.

Fall Recital 2016 Highlights

Students Showing Off Their Skills

Taking lessons and practicing is something that all musicians have to spend most of their time doing, but it all pays off at the performance. Just this December we returned to the Ethical Society of Philadelphia for our largest recital yet. We featured students on piano, violin, cello, saxophone, voice, and guitar for a fantastic afternoon of music making. Our recitals provide our students with the opportunity to show off their skills to friends and family alike. Not only is it a great time for everyone involved, but it’s a crucial experience for becoming a well-rounded musician.

The wide diversity of genres and styles reflects the amazing diversity and talent of all of our students. From Beethoven and Saint-Saëns to The Beatles and Coldplay, enjoy this musical cross-section of our Philly Music Lessons family. We’re so glad to have seen so many people at our recital this past fall, but in case you missed it, here’s a little something to give you an idea of how talented our students are!

 

Five Underrated Instruments

5 Underrated Instruments for Your Child to Learn

original-5underrated_blogWhether your child wants to join their school band or orchestra, or if you want your child to take private music lessons, it can be difficult to select the right instrument. Oftentimes, students and parents alike only consider instruments that are popular, age appropriate, and/or affordable. While this criteria is reasonable, there are a number of underrated instruments for your child to learn that are also age appropriate and inexpensive.

 

Take a moment to consider these instruments and their benefits.

  1. Viola
    A lesser known string instrument, the viola closely resembles the violin in every way it counts. In fact, many viola players are able to use their skills to play the violin later on. How? Not only are both of these instruments held and played the same way, they share three of the same strings. While the violin has one higher string, the viola has one lower string.The main difference between the two instruments is the clef they use. Violists are the only instrumentalists who regularly use the alto clef. Therefore, those who play the viola tend to have phenomenal music reading and music theory skills. Although the viola is often neglected for its popular sibling the violin, it’s one of the best instruments for your child to learn from an educational and opportunity standpoint. Less competition amongst violists means more opportunities to play.
  • Trumpet
    While trumpets are well-known instruments, they are not well selected by kids looking to learn an instrument for the first time. This could be because trumpets are considered one of the most difficult instruments to play. Not only does it require good breath and finger coordination, it is a loud instrument. Furthermore, trumpets are often given the melody, making precise intonation important. If a trumpet goes out of tune, everyone will notice. This makes it a great instrument for your child to learn if they enjoy a challenge or being the center of attention.
  • Trombone
    The trombone – even less popular than the trumpet – offers a number of advantages to your child. Like many of the instruments on this list, less competition means your child will have more opportunities to play the trombone. The trombone has the unique benefit of being valuable to just about every kind of music group as well. They’re heard in bands, orchestras, symphonies, jazz bands, and so on. While the trombone can be a difficult instrument to care for, it can be a good opportunity for your child to learn about the importance of maintenance and respect for valuable items.
  • Flute
    Considered one of the oldest woodwind instruments, the flute is an easy, affordable, and versatile instrument for your child to learn. It is considered versatile in terms of both portability and usage. Learning the flute allows students to pick up other instruments later on as well, such as the piccolo or the saxophone. Its ease and pleasing tone make it a good instrument to develop your child’s confidence and foundational understanding of music.
  • Clarinet
    The clarinet is often neglected over its more popular counterpart, the saxophone. Few people realize the similarities between these two instruments, but a soprano saxophone even looks similar to a clarinet. However, the saxophone is considered easier to play than the clarinet, meaning the clarinet offers an educational advantage to your child. Furthermore, just like the viola to the violin, students who learn the clarinet can easily learn the saxophone later on. Switching the other way around, however, is more challenging.

 

Every Student Is Unique

It can be difficult to choose an instrument for you or your child when you’re just starting out, though we hope you will seriously consider these underrated instruments for your child to learn. Each one offers unique benefits to the player, and by virtue of being underrated, your child will often have more opportunities to play as a result. This could include special bands or orchestras, competitions, or even scholarships. No matter what instrument your child chooses to play though, we hope they enjoy a lifelong relationship to music!

Bass Instruction at Philly Music Lessons

bass lessons bass instructionAn Introduction to Bass Instruction

What should you expect when beginning bass lessons? At Philly Music Lessons, we have bass instructors who specialize in both upright and electric bass, and will help students learn to play and understand the music they love. Whether they have some level of experience and want to continue to grow as a bassist, or are just starting out on their musical journey, our teachers can help identify their needs and goals. While we work toward fulfilling these goals, our teachers will provide the appropriate bass instruction for any level of student.

For Beginning Students

A beginner bass student can expect to learn the basics of his or her instrument. This includes how to tune it and where to find the notes. Students will also learn the fundamental techniques of playing, such as:

  • fingering the electric bass
  • bowing the upright bass
  • major and minor scales
  • time signatures
  • chords and arpeggios

Depending on the goals of the student and teacher, students can learn to read traditional notation, tab, or both. In addition to one-on-one guidance during lessons, teachers will show the student how to practice effectively on their own in a way that enforces good habits and develops a steady sense of time. Together, the student and teacher will lay out fundamental skills while also learning songs to keep the lessons fun and engaging.

For Intermediate Students

An intermediate level bass student will expand on the fundamentals to explore the specific styles of music that they enjoy playing and develop their ability to write and play their best bass lines.  At this level, students will study the role of the bass in an ensemble within various genres, and learn to use their knowledge to play collaboratively with others. Advanced playing techniques that may be more genre specific such as picking, slapping, and playing chords will be studied.

The student should also expect to study more advanced concepts in music theory such as jazz harmonies and playing in advanced time signatures. Improvisational soloing in various genres will be studied theoretically and practically. A fantastic tool for this is transcribing solos from the great players of the past! You can learn so much about the music theory and creativity required to make a great improvisation by carefully looking at what has been done before.

Musical instruments can be expensive and complicated investments that can feel daunting for people who are just starting out, but our teachers are there for our students every step of the way! Our instructors can help the student put together a bass rig with the perfect tone, features, and budget for their needs, as well as help them learn how to properly maintain the instrument throughout their studies. Students of all ages and ability levels will find Philly Music Lessons a fabulous place for growth that fosters a talent that will stay with them for a lifetime. We can help guide bassists of all kinds through the most important years of their development!

Easy Holiday Songs to Play on the Guitar

Put On Your Ugly Christmas Sweater and Break out a Holiday Tune!

Guitar Christmas Songs It’s that time of year, and many new guitar students out there want to show off their stuff for the holiday season. We want to help you out by giving you a selection of easy holiday songs to play on the guitar, and by also demonstrating what makes a song good for beginner guitar players. That way, you can start with the songs we’ve suggested and then find more selections on your own.

So what makes one song easier to play than another? It’s all about the basics: how much does a song focus on basic guitar skills? What key a song is in and the amount of chords a song requires are the first basic skills that come to mind. In other words, if a song is in C Major or G Major (the first two keys most beginner guitar students learn), it will theoretically be an easier song to play, especially if it sticks to the common chords within those keys.

Then, you’ll want to look at how fast the song is, or at least, how fast the chords change. Going back and forth between the C chord and the G chord is tricker than holding a C chord for a long time and then switching to G later on. Longer songs will also be trickier than shorter songs. Similarly, if you’re working on tabs or learning to play melodies, look for some with shorter ranges, standard fingerings, and simple chord progressions.

Holiday songs tend to meet a lot of this criteria. Many of them are also familiar to the average beginner guitar player, and when a tune is more familiar to us, it’s easier to learn. Furthermore, a number of the songs listed below are in the public domain, meaning it’s relatively easy to find sheet music, tabs, or chords for them. Now, without further ado, here are some easy holiday songs to play on the guitar!

 

  • Joy to the World
    This version is in G major and requires just three chords. It’ll be easy to focus on the singing with this one if you’d like to mix your musical skills.
  • Silent Night
    With a slow and simple melody and limited chord changes, this Christmas classic is easy to play whether you’re focusing on chords or on playing the melody. You can find the chords and the tab for the melody here.
  • 12 Days of Christmas
    Although this is a long song, the melody repeats over and over, making it relatively easy to play on the guitar. A minor chord is thrown in, so this one can also stretch your skills slightly.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
    Songs for kids tend to be on the easier side, and this holiday favorite is a good example of that. You can find the chords here.
  • Jingle Bells
    An example of a faster song with limited chord changes, this song is also a great choice for those learning to read sheet music. You can find the chords and the sheet music here.
  • Auld Lang Syne
    For your New Year’s party, prepare to have another minor chord thrown in. You can find the chords here. Or, if you’re feeling a little more advanced, you can try to play the melody by using the sheet music or tab here.

 

In the end, the easiest holiday songs to play on the guitar will be the ones you like the most. People practice an instrument more if they like the song they’re playing, so if you want to try a song that’s not on this list, go for it! If you’re not quite there yet though, these songs are a great way to build your skill while also getting into the holiday spirit.

 

What to Expect in Your First Voice Lessons

By Kristen Seikaly

Voice Lessons, Voice Teachers, Philadelphia

Kristen is a professional vocalist and instructor with her Masters in Voice Performance and Pedagogy

You’ve signed up for your first voice lesson, and you couldn’t be more excited! Learning how to sing is a wonderful and fulfilling journey.

You may find that you’re nervous too, and that’s okay! It can be scary to open up and sing for a new person, especially when you don’t know what it’s going to be like. To help you prepare for your upcoming journey, here are some things you can expect in your first voice lessons.

#1 Expect a bit of conversation

The voice is a unique instrument in that each one is different (including yours!). Therefore, your teacher will want to take some time to get to know you, your past musical experiences, and your goals for voice lessons to ensure that they have the best understanding of your voice they possibly can. This initial conversation will help you to reach your goals that much faster.

#2 Expect to sing!

No matter how much conversation occurs, the best way for your teacher to get to know your voice is to hear it! They will probably take you through a set of vocal exercises to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. You don’t need to worry about sounding perfect. Your teacher just wants to know how they can best help you become a better singer.

#3 Expect to ask questions

Because the voice is an instrument you can’t see, oftentimes voice teachers will use metaphors or imagery to explain technical concepts. Therefore, their directions may not make sense to you right away. If you don’t fully understand, feel free to ask! Your voice teacher’s primary goal is to make sure you can continue to sing well outside of the studio, and understanding directions is important to that. Therefore, questions are always encouraged. Just make sure that you don’t get so bogged down in asking questions that you forget to sing!

#4 Expect to work and to be patient

It can be tempting to come into your first voice lessons wanting to be able to sing your favorite song like a pro by the end of them. Unfortunately, this is not how voice lessons work. Developing good posture, breath control, and vocal clarity are crucial to healthy singing in the long run. Therefore, it is important to practice the exercises and songs your teacher assigns you to get you to your goals.

#5 Expect to have fun!

Learning how to sing well is work, but it’s also fun! You probably started taking voice lessons because you love to sing, but you’ll find that each individual lesson itself can be a fun and rewarding experience. If you come in with an open mind and ready to learn, you’ll have a great time with voice lessons.

If you’re still a bit nervous, just remember one more thing: your new voice teacher was once a brand new student, too. As long as you let their experience guide you, you’ll have a great start to a wonderful and lifelong musical journey.

Baby and Toddlers May Music, Fishtown

May MusicMay weekday music classes for babies and tots (ages 0-3) are on Wednesday mornings at 10 AM at our Philly Music Lessons studio. This month, we have some space for newbies! If you’ve been waiting to try out a class for FREE, come on by starting next week. We’re located down the street from the Soup Kitchen in Fishtown. We welcome Philly families from Fishtown, East Kensington, Northern Liberties, Port Richmond, and beyond to come make friends and music. If you can’t make our weekday classes, join us select Saturdays and Sundays this month (May 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd). Check our calendar to make sure classes aren’t full!

If you’re dropping in ($15 per class) or attending for your first time (FREE), you can just show up so long as classes are not labeled “FULL” on our calendar. However, if you have the time, we always appreciate the heads up! Email us here if you’re popping in. Package holders are always welcome!

5 Class Baby Music Lover Package – $10/class for regulars
If you plan to come to music classes regularly, it might make sense to get a package. You can buy a package in person, at class (cash, check, or credit card), or we can email you an invoice so you can pay in advance online. Please note: there are a limited number of packages issued per class, as we like to keep class sizes relatively small. Packages can be issued for either Wednesdays, Saturdays, or Sundays.

Expiration Dates for Packages/Punch Cards
5 class packages/punch cards expire within a time frame that allows you to miss roughly two scheduled classes on our calendar. For example, Saturday classes are usually scheduled 2-3 times per month. Your punch card will expire 3 months from your purchase date, allowing you around 7-9 class dates to choose from. You can check our calendar to get a feel for typical class schedules.

Thanks!

See you all soon,
Claire, “Coco”

Philly Music Babies
Philly Music Lessons


Life at Philly Music Lessons Post-Baby and Toddler Music?

Some of you have been with us for almost 2 years now! Its amazing how time has flown, how much everyone has grown, and how much we’ve all come to love our classes together. Please stay in touch with us through our school’s main newsletter, where we announce new classes for ages 3 and up. Here you’ll also find out more about private lessons, recitals, and other events going on at the studio. For instance, this Spring we’ve been holding classes where baby and tots alumni have gotten the chance to reconvene with old friends in a musical way – Keep an eye out for new Fall class offerings!

Suzuki Style Group Violin Class Ages 3 & 4
Feel free to get in touch with us now if you’d be interested in a group Suzuki-style violin class for ages 3-4 starting September 2016. Small-sized violin rentals will be included.

Private Lessons
We encourage holding off on private lessons until at least 4, but we also know every kid is different! If you’re thinking music lessons, you may consider setting up a trial run (suggested for no more the 30 minutes for young kids), so you can see how your child would do with music lessons at any age.